Christmas is a wonderful time of year to gather friends and family, celebrate the festive season and for just being with each other. But it is also a time of year when we are at our most vulnerable to the dangers of fire. Fire safety at Christmas is not usually on our wish list but I am sure Santa will be forever grateful that we all celebrate safely.
Fires can be killers – they can start and spread rapidly in the home, leaving very little time to react. Preventive fire safety measures at any time of year are essential but even more so at Christmas.
Smoke alarms, fire doors and secondary exits are standard features of new-builds and mandated by building regulations in most types of extension or renovation; however, even these very sensible innovations can’t provide 100% protection and fire safety is severely tested in the winter when we rely most heavily on artificial heating and lighting.
The older the property the more the risk is heightened and often rental homes don’t have the same level of additional fire safety measures as some newer builds so being vigilant and having the right smoke alarms and fire safety and fighting equipment is essential.
Cooking the turkey dinner
Cooking overnight is often the only option if the roast potatoes and pigs in blankets are to join the feast on Christmas Day! so it’s important to ensure that the oven is set at the right temperature and checked regularly especially if it’s a gas cooker.
Make sure you follow manufacturers guidelines and don’t leave tea towels on the handles or on top of the hob; again it’s all about being aware and conscious of the need for fire safety.
After cooking, heating and smoking, the biggest causes of domestic fires are faulty electrical equipment, poor wiring and naked flames, principally candles. Once a fire starts, a property that is full of flammable, untreated plastic-based material is especially vulnerable.
What are most homes full of at Christmas? Electric lights, trees, decorations, candles, and possibly open fires.
Artificial or real – consider your choice of tree
An artificial one may well be passed its best both visually and unsafely if composed in part of combustible materials. This year might be the time to invest in a new one that comes complete with modern safety certifications, with the modest extra expense worth it for increased safety and peace of mind.
Beware of trees that carry a label declaring them to be flame retardant, as this is not the same as fireproof. In any case, you should keep an artificial tree away from sources of heat and ensure that the lights are safe using only certified surge protected extensions leads.
Bear in mind that a real tree can also be a fire risk with its dry wood exposed in your home. When you are choosing a real tree, look for positive signs such as a slightly sticky trunk and needles that don’t fall off easily.
This will reassure you that it hasn’t dried out and isn’t starting to turn into tinder. Also remember that you will probably have the heating on for longer than normal, which can dry out a cut tree very quickly. Keep it well watered to prolong its life, lustre and resilience.
Twinkle, twinkle little star!
It’s a time of fun and excitement when it is time to put up the decorations, but you should take the opportunity to carry out some safety checks as you unravel all the lights that you’re sure you tidied away neatly last year?!
Inspect them for damage, particularly the wiring. Even though they only come out once a year, they’ve probably been subjected to plenty of rigorous handling in that time.
Check to see if the protective coating has worn thin or there is any fraying, as they are potentially very dangerous if any wires are exposed or scorched.
It is also worth considering the kind of lighting, as LEDs are commonly available and are much safer than old-fashioned filament bulbs. They operate at a lower voltage, generate much less heat, and can last for several years.
If in doubt, look to replace your lights rather than take the risk – one spark is all it takes.
With all the extra demand for power, you will probably need to use extension leads. These can be dangerous if you overload them so fire safety is essential.
Once again, it is advisable to update your equipment with safety certified models and never exceed the manufacturer’s guidelines. When it comes to outdoor lights, you should use a residual current device (RCD). If there is any kind of electrical fault, the RCD will shut them down automatically.
When placing decorations around the home, keep them well clear of any sources of heat or flame: Christmas lights, radiators and heaters just as much as open fires and candles.
If you decorate near any of these, stick to ornaments that have the least risk of catching fire.
Leaving the light on for Santa!
One of the things that makes Christmas special is seeing the Christmas lights illuminating the house when you return home, but it is risky to leave lights on when no one is in.
It might make your homecoming slightly less magical but it is much safer to turn everything off when you go out and when you turn in for the night. To be doubly sure, turn things off at the wall socket and unplug them.
For more information on keeping the home and your family safe during Christmas visit Electrical Safety First – Christmas Lights Safety
Candle, candle burning bright
Candles are a beautiful addition to the festive decorations creating a feeling of warmth and conjuring fond memories with smells of frankincense, and myrrh. But they are also an accident waiting to happen so your attention to fire safety is crucial.
Always place them where there is no danger that they will be knocked over or catch on curtains or presents and keep them away from the tree and anything flammable.
Don’t put them close to walls or mirrors, as they can scorch or burn paintwork or plaster and crack glass. And never, ever leave lit candles unattended, however safely you think they are positioned.
Always anticipate the worst, as fire is deadly so fire safety should be your top priority.
Bahhh humbug sir!
Yes it does sound like getting ready for christmas is a full-time health and safety project, but it needn’t be if you take the right precautions.
Quick tips for fire safety at Christmas
- Ensure that there is a working smoke alarm fitted on all the levels of the property
- Install a carbon monoxide alarm near any stoves or open fires
- Remember to test the smoke alarms at least every week during the festive season (set Alexa to remind you)
- Check and replace batteries or the alarm if you can’t hear an audible beep when pressing the test button
Don’t become a statistic
Be extra vigilant around hazards in the home, including checking:
- Christmas tree lights – make sure that they meet British Standards
- Overloaded sockets – only ever use surge protectors and never exceed the socket limit by adding adaptors
- Candles – keep them away from any flammable material and never leave unattended
- Portable heaters – make sure they meet safety standards and aree never left on overnight or when the room is not occupied
Reduce the risk of fire and save lives
Turn off all lights before you leave the house or when turning on for the night – Santa will know where the mince pies are and don’t worry; Rudloph has a bright nose to guide his way!
All I want for Christmas is you! you! you!
Here at Inventory Base, we understand that Christmas is a time that everyone wants to kick back and enjoy but with just a little bit of planning and a few moments of your attention you can set a fire safety theme running throughout the home and have a very Happy Christmas!